Published: Mon, January 08, 2018
People | By Leon Thompson

Netanyahu: UN's Palestinian Refugee Agency Should Be 'Thing of the Past'

Netanyahu: UN's Palestinian Refugee Agency Should Be 'Thing of the Past'

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu has expressed support for a gradual cutback of USA funding to the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) for Palestinian refugees, according to Israeli reports. "It also perpetuates the narrative of the so-called "right of return" with the aim of eliminating the State of Israel, and therefore the UNRWA must disappear", he concluded.

Speaking at a Cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said that he completely agrees with President Trump's "strong criticism" of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).

Israeli officials also criticize the agency's method of classifying refugees, with descendants also eligible to register.

Netanyahu's office said in a brief statement that the premier "supports President Trump's critical approach and believes that practical steps should be taken to change the situation in which UNRWA is perpetuating the Palestinian refugee problem rather than resolving it". Today, more than 1.5 million Palestinians live in refugee camps in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. "This needs to be resolved by the parties to the conflict in the context of peace talks, based on United Nations resolutions and worldwide law, and requires the active engagement by the global community", Gunness said in a statement.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) said on Monday that its mandate comes only from the United Nations General Assembly, which created it in 1950 following the Palestinians' dispersion from their homeland with Israel's creation by a UN resolution in 1947.

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The decision was a break from longstanding US policy and the path advocated by the United Nations, which sees Jerusalem's status as an issue to be resolved through negotiation.

On Wednesday, Trump threatened to cut aid worth more than $300 million annually to the Palestinians in a bid to force them to negotiate.

Jerusalem remains at the heart of the Middle East conflict with Palestinians hoping that East Jerusalem - occupied by Israel - might eventually serve as the capital of an independent state of Palestine.

The United States is the largest donor to the agency, with a pledge of almost $370 million as of 2016, according to UNRWA's website.

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